e-book Das Reich: 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich – Drive to Normandy, June 1944 (Battleground)

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SS troops firing a mm Nebelwerfer These smoke mortars could also fire high-explosive shells. The Germans became expert at concentrating mortar fire for maximum effect.

The British called them 'stonks'. It fell to Hitler to decide on the matter, and typically he chose an unworkable solution.

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This was the chain of coastal fortifications which stretched from western France to Norway. Begun in , it was still far from complete. The major ports were well guarded, but only in the Pas de Calais was there something like a continuous belt of defences. On his appointment as head of Army Group B in November , Rommel ordered a massive strengthening of the existing fortifications, adding pillboxes, gun emplacements, beach obstacles and millions of mines.

In some places the defences were extended inland to cover possible access routes and glider landing areas. Five infantry divisions manned the coastal defences in the areas due to be assaulted by the Allies. The rd and th Static Divisions were in the Cotentin peninsula, with th facing the area of Utah. The 91st Airlanding Division, with the experienced 6th Parachute Regiment attached, was moved there in May to reinforce the defences. The nd Infantry Division was a well-trained veteran field formation, recently arrived and undetected by Allied intelligence.

It would oppose the American landings on Omaha with devastating consequences. The sector of coast to be attacked by the British and Canadians — designated Gold, Juno and Sword — was held by the th Static Division. This formation had been reinforced in late with experienced officers and NCOs, and would also give a good account of itself. The 88mm Flak 36 was an anti-aircraft weapon that also functioned as a superbly effective anti-tank weapon. British and American armour had no protection against it. During Operation 'Goodwood' carefully hidden '88s' knocked out scores of British Shermans.

As the clock wound down, some on the German side welcomed the chance to face the Allies. Here was probably the last chance to regain the initiative. In the event, German reaction to the landings on 6 June was slow and confused. The spell of bad weather which had made the decision to go so fraught for Eisenhower also meant the Germans were caught off guard. Rommel was visiting his wife in Germany and many senior commanders were not at their posts. Fifteenth Army was held there. On D-Day itself, the troops manning the coastal defences did as much as they could have been expected to.

The veteran nd Infantry Division inflicted heavy casualties on American forces storming Omaha beach. Elsewhere, many bunkers and gun emplacements survived the initial Allied air and sea bombardment, and their occupants held out for several hours. The defenders were gradually silenced and Allied units were able to start advancing inland, but German resistance was enough to prevent them achieving many of their first day objectives. The Panther was a formidable opponent superior to most Allied tanks, but vulnerable to the British pounder gun mounted on the Firefly. Some of its units had already been engaged by British airborne forces, but it was not until mid-afternoon on D-Day that the division finally advanced against the British north of Caen.

They lost 70 out of tanks. Other formations also soon on the way - 17th SS would be in place at Carentan on 11 June. Two static divisions from Fifteenth Army were immediately transferred to the Normandy front, and other regular field divisions started moving there from further afield in France.

As they were dependent on horses and their own feet, the infantry divisions took much longer than the armoured formations to reach the front. The British failure to take Caen on D-Day and make progress further inland meant the Germans were able to get sufficient forces into the battle area to contain the Allied armies.

Over the next few days the fanatical SS formation made repeated attempts to drive a wedge through to the sea. The Canadians held the SS at great cost but were prevented from continuing their own advance further south, and could only consolidate their positions.


These three formations formed the main defence for Caen, but plans for a major counterattack had to be abandoned as a result of Allied air attacks. British troops pose with captured German infantry anti-tank weapons. The Panzerschreck was based on the American bazooka. The sergeant is holding two versions of the most effective Panzerfaust single-shot weapon.

Das Reich: 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich - Drive to Normandy, June 1944

By his feet are two Teller mines. Units elsewhere would hold their positions. Retreat was out of the question. For the rest of June, General Bernard Montgomery, commanding all Allied ground forces, made several attempts to envelope Caen. All failed in the face of tenacious German resistance. To the west of Caen, 50th Division was frustrated trying to push south from Bayeux towards Tilly-sur-Seulles. On 13 June Wittmann single-handedly destroyed 11 British tanks and 13 other armoured vehicles. The failed battle at Villers-Bocage was the last chance the British had for quickly outflanking Caen.

The Germans had successfully plugged the gaps in their line before the Allied build-up became overwhelming. The defensible terrain gave them a significant advantage, and they enjoyed a measure of weapon superiority. But the Germans had no answer to the prodigious firepower of the Allies.

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Air strikes, artillery and naval bombardment inexorably depleted already under-strength formations. A wrecked German SdKfz half-track in the village of Christot. Allied fighter bombers took a heavy toll of German tanks, vehicles and horse draw transport during the retreat of the Seventh and Fifth Panzer Armies from Normandy. Unlike the British or Americans though, German units could continue to function even when substantially reduced by casualties.

Many had combat experience in the East. They were used to operating in improvised battlegroups, thrown together when occasion demanded. They excelled at local counterattacks, quickly recapturing villages and ground taken by the enemy. This meant that time and again, small groups of troops could effectively block much larger Allied formations. But all the while, as they successfully resisted repeated attacks, the Germans were losing precious men and tanks that could not be replaced.

As the German line stiffened, Montgomery was forced to use ever larger forces to try and break through. The original intention had been to use these fresh formations to lead a decisive new counterattack. Instead, they had to be fed into the line to shore up the defences. Von Schweppenburg was arguing for a withdrawal into the French interior to conduct a mobile defence. Rommel and von Rundstedt both tried to persuade OKW that the situation was impossible.

Instead Von Schweppenburg was sacked on 1 July and von Rundstedt told to retire. It was reduced to several hundred infantry and 40 tanks. The 16th Luftwaffe Field Division was virtually wiped out. Though they were still containing the British and Americans, the German Army in Normandy was being bled white in a relentless battle of attrition.

Attempts to concentrate armoured units for a decisive counterattack were repeatedly stymied by Allied attacks and the need to support infantry formations. Allied firepower was overwhelming.

Das Reich: 2nd Ss Panzer Division Das Reich - Drive To Normandy, June Download

Supplies of fuel and ammunition were held up by air attacks. There was only a trickle of reinforcements. Skip to main content. Email to friends Share on Facebook - opens in a new window or tab Share on Twitter - opens in a new window or tab Share on Pinterest - opens in a new window or tab. Add to Watchlist.

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